Words by Anna Braybrooks, photographed by her partner Austin
On September 8 in the middle of the night I woke up to a small release of water soaking my underwear. At 35 and a half weeks, it didn't dawn on me that my water could be broken. I thought casually that it could have been my mucus plug and this could mean that I still had a few weeks before having my baby. That morning I continued to leak fluid and so I decided to search online and consult with my doula friend as to what this could mean. I realized my water had broken and I could be going into labor any day. I was in denial that my baby could be born in the next 48 hours. I worried that it was still too early but I trusted my baby and my body knowing that everything happens at the perfect time. If my baby was ready to come early, then so was I.
On the night of September 9th at around midnight I was awoken by a strong sensation in my lower abdomen. 'Could this be a contraction?’ I thought. It felt like the most intense period cramp I have ever felt. After a few more strong surges I woke up my partner, Austin, and told him what I was feeling. The surges continued to get stronger and more intense so I got out of bed and rocked my hips side to side on all fours. Austin began timing my surges. We both quickly realized I was in full blown labor! I didn't know how long this would go on so I decided to try and sleep between surges. Austin stayed up and continued timing them. I began to moan louder and louder as the contractions progressed. I felt myself slipping into laborland, or a trance-like state between contractions. I let my body lead as I emptied my mind of all thoughts.
As the sun rose, Austin began preparing for our planned outdoor water birth. Since we live in a tiny house, we decided to build a screened-in porch separate from the house for me to birth in. The weather here in Florida is perfect for an outdoor birth in September, even though we thought our due date was in October. Austin cleaned the porch and began filling the birth pool as I labored on all fours in our sleeping loft. I was moaning loudly and feeling rapid progress in my labor so I decided to put my headphones on and listen to my hypnobirthing CD. I sat cross-legged and felt myself melt into a deep relaxation which helped me stay calm during surges. Once Austin told me the pool was ready, I came downstairs and walked outside with my bare feet on the earth before entering the outdoor room where the pool was. I slipped into the warm pool with only a bra on and immediately felt relief from the intense surges.
I continued to labor in the pool through the morning hours. It was a beautiful sunny day with only a light drizzle of rain. I felt the connection to mother earth as I was surrounded by trees and birds cheering me on. Austin was my rock and he stayed with me supporting me in any way he could. I continued to vocalize, even to the point of screams, as contractions turned into strong urges to push. The pushing reflex was so strong it blew me away. Austin reminded me to breathe through surges so as not to force my baby out too quickly. I did my best to breathe but the surges were so strong I felt it was beyond my control. My throat would close and I couldn't help but bear down. Austin entered the pool with me and we made eye contact throughout and in between the contractions. He made me feel so strong and confident, motivating me and complimenting me throughout. I began to feel overwhelmed and told him I couldn't go on like this. I knew these thoughts and feelings meant baby was close. I changed positions, desperately trying to find relief. As noon approached and the urge to push continued, I could feel my baby's head bulging at the entrance. I felt a moment of fear as the realization hit me that my baby was about to enter this world. Austin sat across from me and smiled at me as he sensed my fear. I breathed and stayed as relaxed as possible while it felt like my vagina was ripping open. I screamed and looked down to see that the back of my baby's head had emerged. Quickly her shoulders and torso followed. Austin and I both reached down to grab her and noticed her cord was wrapped just around her head. So we gently but quickly removed it and I scooped her onto my chest. She opened her eyes and cried immediately. I was in total shock and amazement of what had just happened. Austin jumped out of the water and grabbed the camera to record this precious moment.
I held my baby on my chest, Austin and I looked at each other in total bliss as we had just achieved our dream birth. Our baby was here and after 10 minutes I looked down and saw it was a girl! We were overjoyed that we had a daughter. What a gift from God! I guided her to my breast and she latched immediately. I was so happy to be in this moment I had dreamed about for months. We had the unassisted, home water birth that we had planned, despite the doubt and fears of our friends and family. We were all healthy and happy. My heart was full of gratitude. After about an hour we called our parents to share the surprise that we had our baby early. They were all thrilled! We had just made our parents proud grandparents! Since Austin and I are both from California, all our parents are there so we had to send them pictures of their new granddaughter.
We had decided to do a lotus birth which meant we were not going to cut the cord, but rather keep her attached to the placenta until the cord dries up and falls off naturally. So after about two hours, I birthed the placenta and we placed it in a bowl, carried our baby and her placenta into the house and onto the bed. We dressed the placenta in dried herbs (lavender, rosemary, sage, rose petals and Himalayan sea salt). We kept our baby naked without a diaper until the cord fell off four days later. It was a peaceful and gentle way to ease her into the world from the womb. It also kept me in bed with her as I adjusted to my new role as mother, and allowed me to take the time to heal. We believed in practicing the ritual of staying home for the first 30 days to bond as a family, and to get to know our daughter before presenting her to the outside world. We spent time walking with her in the garden and exposed her to fresh air and nature. The bustling city streets would have to wait.
We named our daughter Lotus Ocean. We feel the name is powerful and feminine, and it represents the natural world that she is intimately a part of. We hope she will grow to be a strong, confident woman who knows her place in the world, and always follows her dreams.
Connect with author and photographer through Instagram- @sat.nam.mama @sproutinglifefarm